Howdy folks, hello to returning visitors ! This is the late February 2018 fortnight’s selection.
Let’s begin with a well-known artist, SKEETS McDONALD. At the peak of his career in March 1958, he recorded a full album of Honky Tonk for Capitol, which I chose the rollicking « You’re there » from : fine piano, guitar by Buck Owens, it’s the sort of bopping music you never get rid of. (Capitol T 1040)
What an elusive artist is EARNEY VANDAGRIFF. He had between 1954 and 57 records on Specialty (700 serie – see the story in this site) and Starday. This time it’s the romping Rockabilly/Rocker « Be-bop Santa Claus » on California’s Rural Rhythm label (# 511). Fine piano.
SUNSHINE SUE teamed with Joe Maphis for « Barn dance boogie » (the latter’s earliest recorded known effort) on Astra 1215. It’s indeed a fast guitar tune over a male vocal. Astra was a Richmond, VA. label from about 1949 or 50.
From the small town of Florence, AL comes MOTT GILBERT on the Dixie Cleartone label # 175, from circa 1954. « Foot loose and fancy free » has a fiddle solo (Gilbert?), but uninventive steel solo and a short piano solo. The flipside « Loving mama blues » is a great piano led medium blues tune.
From 1948 come the next tracks by EVERETT LACKEY& the Lone Star Ramblers, from the Birmingham, AL Vulcan label # 3000A. « Longing for someone » is an uptempo – good guitar with Western swing overtones. The flipside « Sorrow and tears » a medium side with accordion.
Hello, this is a full Summer 2017 (early August) fortnight favorites’ selection, with 10 tunes. The first two are by an unknown artist on a famous label. HARRY CARROLL on the Starday label # 277 (issued December 1956). A waltz tempo for « Checkerboard lover », a mid-paced sentimental « Two-timin’ » for the flipside. Typical Starday atmosphere, but nothing exceptional. Carroll seemingly co-wrote « The trail of the lonesome pine » for Jimmy Donley (Decca 30392), and that was over. « Checkerboard lover »
GLENN & JODY, the Singing Buddies were backed by Larry Nolen & the Bandits for this fine WS flavored bopper « I’m even with you » on the San Antonio label Eagle # 3772. It’s for you, Bill S. Larry Nolen was a veteran of the S.-A. scene, having records issued on Sarg as early as 1954 (« Hillbilly love affair »), Starday in 1956-57 (« Lucky lady », « King of the ducktail cats »), then later on Eagle (apparently his own label, or one he was involved in – backed by Herby Remington on steel) or Renner in 1961.
RED MANSEL had previously cut for Starday custom # 523 (« I’ve crossed you off my list ») in July 1955, and was the first to appear on Dan Mechura’s new label, All Star # 7165, with a fine medium paced ballad, « Changing heart ». Very great vocal.
KEN GABBARD & The Hilltop Ramblers cut in 1965 on the Trenton, OH Harp label (no #) the very nice « Thing’s can’t be as they were » (sic). Uptempo ballad, and typical early ’60s hillbilly sounds.
LOUIE INNIS (biography by Greg Adams, Allmusic.com). [Additions by Bopping’s editor.]
Louie Innis was born on January 21, 1919 (d. Aug. 20, 1982) in Seymour, Indiana. His role as a session guitarist is often emphasized but the fact is that, for us, it was not his most important role.
Louie Innis (sometimes credited as Louis) is one of those 50-year-old hillbilly boppers that thrill country music collectors. He never had a success [that’s not true], but his recordings for King and Mercury were cheerful, boogies uptempos and proto-rockers that show the musical mastery and the vocal work of Innis.
He was part of Hank Penny’s The Plantation Boys in the early 1940s, performing guitar and bass chores alongside Carl Stewart and Zed Tennis as violinists, and Roy Lanham’s solo guitar. Here is an example of Louie Innis work as rhythm player during a Hank Penny March 1945 session in Cincinnati, OH.: « Talkin’ about you » (King 512)
They worked with The Delmore Brothers, Merle Travis, Bradley Kincaid and Grandpa Jones. They also accompanied WLW pop singer Doris Day. After the march of Lanham, in 1944 the band toured with the USO before Penny traveled to California at the behest of [Merle] Travis, and the group undid. Later, when Penny was under contract with RCA, Innis composed a pair of songs to him, « No Muss-No Fuss-No Bother« (RCA 58-0183) and « Hold The Phone » (1951).
«(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound Dog« , a duet with Charlie Gore, is an issue that has surfaced in rockabilly compilations, although it was recorded in 1953, indicating that Innis was on the road to rock & roll, though he was never permanently installed on it.
There are very few biographical data we could gather about Innis; however, on King Records’ promotional discs some details about the performer were outlined: on King 1225 (1953) he was defined: « Composer, vocalist, instrumentalist and emcee [presenter at Indiana Hoedown on WFBM], Louis innis excels in every facet. An Indiana guy who started on the radio at age 16, Innis has already made up a few hit songs. »
In King 1406 (1954) it was stated: « Indiana native Louie Innis became interested in music for the first time thanks to the local hairdresser who knew a few chords on the guitar, and both played and did duets between cuts of hair and shaved, almost every day. »
On the other side of the same single was noted: « A familiar figure among the broadcasts of folk music is Louie Innis. One of the outstanding rhythmic guitars in the business, Louie Innis worked with Red Foley for two and a half years at the Grand Ole Opry and has recorded with over fifty different artists ».
King 4861 (1955) noted: « (….) His work as a guitarist is much appreciated and is required by many great country stars. Louie is currently working as an emcee at the Indiana Hoedown in Indianapolis, Indiana. »
And on the flipside it was said: « Born in Shelbyville, Indiana, 35 years ago, Louie Innis was driven into music business when he was expelled from high school. He and some other students « played hookey » (skipped classes) one day. « The other guys lied about why they had gone away, but I told the truth, » he explains. « Later, when the director found out, he begged me to come back, but I said ‘no thank you’, and I took music seriously with the blessing of my parents. »
As a composer, in addition to his own songs, highlights « Seven Nights To Rock« , along with Buck Trail and Henry Glover, for Moon Mullican (1956), a classic rockabilly that he never got to record:
« Skip, Hop & Jump Country Style » is a German 23-track anthology of recordings of Innis on Mercury and King between 1949 and 1955, full of Innis novelties and a few hillbilly covers of pop and R & B hits such as « Oh! Babe by Louis Prima and « Hearts of Stone » by the Charms. «Stomp that thing» is a recent (2017) digital anthology to be found on Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite.
Innis used a superb rhythmic section filled with resources like palms, bells, whistles and howls, as a precedent of what Sid King & the Five Strings would do next. Innis had a prominent band in which Zeb and Zeke Turner, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson and Don Helms paraded in different stages, along with Maddox Brothers & Rose, to the category of talents that « should have been», but never received sufficient recognition.
LOUIE INNIS : an appreciation track per track (by Bopping’s editor)
If the reading of comments is boring you, go direct to the podcasts, label scans and downloads.
Sterling and Deluxe issues (1947-late 1948)
« LOUIE & THE INNIS CLAN » (on Sterling)
«Look in the looking glass» is a fast Western swing novelty. Good guitar, steel (Jerry Byrd?) + a welcome trumpet solo. (N.Y.C. Sterling 207 – probably recorded in Nashville).
«Tennessee Central» is of course a train song that’s « Rockin’ and reelin’». Fast. No fiddle. Trumpet main instrument. Steel effects of train. Agile lead guitar. (N.Y.C. Sterling 209 – probably recorded in Nashville).
«I guess you just don’t care» is a mid-paced ballad. An accordion; fiddle, guitar and bass. Vocal is a bit Hillbilly crooning. (New Jersey Deluxe 5059, also probably recorded in Nashville). First song written by Louie Innis. Leased by King ? The session has nos less than 7 unissued songs left.
= On December 22, 1948, Innis did the rhythm guitar duty for the Hank Williams‘ session that released « Lost on the river » and « Lovesick blues ».
Mercury issues (July 1949-November 1951)
« LOUIE INNIS & THE STRING DUSTERS »
«Better back up mama» (# 6217) Billed on label «Country boogie and blues» : uptempo Bopper ; prominent fiddle, Jerry Byrd takes a steel solo. Probably Zeke Turner on lead guitar. Innis on energetic rhythm guitar.
= On August 30, 1949, Innis accompanied on rhythm guitar Hank Williams once more (and for the last time) on «I’m so lonesome I could cry», «I just don’t like this kind of livin’», «My bucket’s got a hole in it». Tommy Jackson was on fiddle, and probably accompanied Louis Innis on his first Mercury session, with Ernie Newton on bass, at E.T. Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, OH.
«She’s mean to me» (# 6225, reissued # 6273) is a real fine shuffler. Zeke Turner in good form. Byrd has his solo. Certainly Tommy Jackson on insistent fiddle.
One more «Country boogie» as noted on the label : «Jug band boogie» (# 6244). A novelty by the use of a washboard, handclaps, and the growls of Innis (imitating T. Texas Tyler). A fine bopper.
«I thought she was a local (but she was a fast express)» (# 6273). Not written by Innis, it’s his second train-inspired opus. Very fast song, an harmonica (for the only time in Innis’ records), fiddle is prominent. Discreet steel, imitating a train bell.A promising «Woman hating blues» from this August 1950 session remains unissued.
Another pop novelty from the pen of Louis Prima, given the Hillbilly bop treatment, «Oh ! Babe» (# 6293). Tailor-made for Prima, a very nice version by the versatile Innis. An insistent guitar riff.
More to come with the next pairing. «Honky-tonk man» (# 6335) from May 1951. Strong country boogie guitar, loud drums, great steel. Same goes for the flipside, «Stomp that thing» (penned Innis-Turner) is a tour-de-force, his fastest song ever, without fiddle, and proto-rockabilly. Great song !
In June 1951, Hank Penny cut the Louie Innis songs that were specially written for him : «No muss-no fuss-no bother» and «Hold the phone», although the session took place on the West coast (Innis not present).
So strangely «I’ve got a red hot love» (on the label, «Louie Innis » alone) (# 6370) from late 1951 returns to classic style Hillbilly bopper – the theme song is as usual. The fiddle is back, and the voice is always winkling. From the same session remained unissued «I’m the lonesomest guy».
Remember. If my comments are boring you, go direct to podcasts, downloads and labels cans.
Louie Innis didn’t have in 1952 any recording pact, and without doubt he devoted himself to his work on WLW (Cincinnati, Midwestern Hayride) and WFBM (Indiana Hoedown), or recording sessions for others artists.
Billboard March 1953
February and March 1953. «Who’ll give me, you’ll give me, who’ll give me kisses» (# 1180) is a fast novelty and unpretentious very good bopper with its catch phrase.
« Who’ll give me, you’ll give me, who’ll give me kisses »
Then the very fast «I got a round trip ticket» » from November 1953. Train effects by the steel payer ; pizzicato played fiddle, which seems mandolin . Plus, «There’s a red hot fire (in the old locomotive)» (# 1392) (penned Roberts = maybe Bob Newman under his usual pseudonym as writer), again a fast train song.
Finally a cover of another R&B hit, « Hearts of stone » (# 1392), originally done by the Black vocal group The Charms. Innis does a fine mid-paced rendition of the song. Good steel and guitar. This crossover use of R&B and C&W songs was common at King for years, and gave many a new, fresh song.
Finally from October 1954 to May 1955. – Innis aided by Al Myers (lead guitar), Jerry Byrd and a bass player, formed The Country Cats for a 4-instrumentals session. Fine relaxed boppers : «Hot strings» (# 1410) and «Sun shadows» (# 1430).
Back to Louie Innis recording sessions. He did a good version of the old spiritual « Nobody knows you when you’re down and out », another crossover (# 1406). «The kissing chain» (which he didn’t write) is another mid-paced good novelty. Al Myers makes prowesses on lead (# 1415). The flipside «Let’s make up tonight» goes same, and is equally good bopper. The final side «Sing your song baby» (# 4861) has chorus and a fine guitar. Innis is tending clearly toward rock’n’roll, that he never really reached. Actually he never recorded anything after this last King 1955 session.
In 1961, King issued a remaining track from the Deluxe session of 1948 (unheard). Why this occurred ?
Further adventures of Louis Innis after 1955
He seems to have devoted himself to writing songs for others. Here below is a partial list of artists whom he’d work for :
Chet Atkins, « Mister Misery », 1954
Chet Atkins, « Set a spell » (vocal by Red Kirk), 1954
Fuller Todd, « Old fashioned », 1957
Brenda Lee, « I’m learning about love » (with Grady Martin), 1960
Charles Brown, « Christmas questions », 1961
Conway Twitty, « Portrait of a fool » (with Buddy Killen), 1961
Joe Henderson, « Mr. Voice », 1962
Jimmy Logsdon, « The life of Hank Williams » (with Hawkshaw Hawkins), 1963
Lois Williams, « Don’t take my child away », 1970
and a lot more into the ’70s.
Louie Innis also arranged songs for Don Lane (M.C.A.), date unknown.
Those songs were rejected for certain reasons (primarily because they’d take too much room) :
Oklahoma City/Foggy river (Sterling) ; I’d be ashmaed if I were you (DeLuxe)
Good morning Judge/My dreamboat stuk a snag/I grabbed for the engine (Mercury)
It don’t pay to advertise/Mexican Joe/What a way to die/Suicide/You’ve got it/What’s she got/She rurn’t it/Nobody knows you when you’re down and out/You’re not happy till you’re mad/Jealous hearted woman (King). A good amount of them is on the « Stomp that thing » compilation (on Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite: unclegil.blogspot.fr)
My thanks go first to Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite, and as usual, Ronald Keppner for the loan (scan and music) of rare 78 rpm’s. Then to Greg Adams (all music site) for the only biography available on Louis Innis ; to the people of the « King Project » (for Hank Penny King side) ; 78rpm and 45rpm scans on always fruitful « 45worlds.com ». My old fellow Tony Biggs for « Whammy… ». YouTube was useful too. There had been a whole lot of work for this issue : it’s really been a « labor of love » ! I hope you’ll appreciate the result of the study. Thanks for your comments : they always give me courage to go further and deeper into Hillbilly bopping music..
Howdy Folks ! This is the early May 2017 bopping fortnight’s favorites selection.
First rank for a mid-tempo Western swing bopper : « Alone by the telephone » from 1947 by RALPH REYNOLDS & his Dude Ranch Wranglers (vocal Curley Burns). From California, it has a lazy vocal, a bit, as you say, disillusioned. Long guitar solo and piano, fiddle parts. The record was first (?) issued on Red Bird 102, then appeared on Globe 127. A very good example of bopping Swing of the ’40s.
Then again in NYC on the Choice label (# 6504) [so, not the revered by Collectors Kansas City label] for a strong rocker: « You don’t love me like you used to do » from 1959. Loud drums, and a good duet between piano and guitar. Still a good side. Finally « Big train » (Choice 6508) from 1960, with a more folky approach (use of a prominent banjo in the backing). And again, a great record. Tommy Faile seemingly never failed ! He was reported as having worked with Arthur Smith too (« Bye bye black smoke choo choo » on M-G-M) and was having records as early as 1948 (Capitol, 40 000 serie) !
Back on the West coast on the Nielsen label (# 57-1-2) and WHITEY KNIGHT and « From an angel to a devil ». A very nice uptempo ballad, with steel to the fore. A touch of the Bakersfield sound.
PHIL BEASLEY on the Dayton, OH Jalyn label (# 349A) cut in as late as 1970 the fine « The restless wind » : the song is a bit folkish, and a fast ditty. Good guitar and vocal.
Finally in Hollywood, TOMMY SARGENT’s Range Boys do come with three tunes. First a good revamp of the old traditional « Frankie and Johnnie », a good jumping version, fiddle-led, on the Corax 1328B label from 1947-48 (vocal Gabe Hemingway). The steel guitar is played by Sargent , as noted on the next track sticker « featuring Tommy Sargent and his Steel Guitar » : « Steel guitar boogie » (# 1328A) is a quite good instrumental, a serious contender in this category. The third and final track by Sargent is also cut on Corax # 1084B (non consecutive serie, but same period!). It’s a prettily different affair : « Night train to Memphis » (vocal Gabe Hemingway) is a very fast call-and-response romper. The accordion imitates a train, we even have a solo of a seemingly welcome clarinet (or is a flute?). A fabulous Western bopper !
This fortnight’s favorite selection begins in a State not usually associated with Hillilly bop, that of Connecticut in the North east part of the U.S. Issued on the Starday custom Coxx label (# 588, September 1956), it hailed from Coventry and was allocated to SLIM COXX and his Cowboy Caravan. I remember the notes to Coxx 588 from the « Starday custom # 575-600 » study I had back in January 2012. « Slim’s real name was Gerard A Miclette. He played with his younger brother, Roland « Rocky » Miclette in various bands. By the time Roland came back from serving in the Navy, he joined Slim (who played fiddle like his father, George) playing bass in Slims’ Kentucky Ramblers. Eventually they came to the attention of the Down Homers, which featured Bill Haley (and Kenny Roberts) and joined them on the tidy sum of $200 a week wages. Once the Down Homers had disbanded, Slim & Rocky were playing at Lake Compounce in Slim’s new band, The Cowboy Caravan. »
»Lonely nights » is a perfect hillbilly shuffler: the vocalist has a top notch « hillbilly » voice, and steel/fiddle are both great. Rocky died on the 6th of May 2004 and Slim passed away October 13th 1999. The actual band singer was a Jimmy Stephen, who led vocals also on the other issue (either 1955, either 1957) by Coxx on the Maine Event label (# 4267), »Sitting here all alone ».
On to Dallas, Texas, and the great JOHNNY HICKS & the Country Gentlemen, recently evoked in my study of Hank Thompson’s « The Wild Side Of Life » and his sequels. Here he delivers a proto-rockabilly with « Pick up blues », great vocal and fine guitar (Columbia 21064) cut late 1952.
Talking of « The wild side of life », here is an unusual Cajun version sung in French by MARIE FALCON fronting Skuk Richard‘s band, The LA. Aces, under the title « Le cote farouche de la vic », which was issued early in 1953.
Then a completely unknown artist by the name of TIM McCLOUD on the Chesterfield label #362 on the West coast. McCloud reminds vocally one of Rex Allen for two selections, « Down Down Down » and « Mountains and mountains of lies » , both urban hillbilly style with a distinct California Western savour. Young Buck Owens had a record on that label too. The writer, Virginia Richmond, was also the owner of the label.
Back to Texas, Houston area with the singer/fiddler COTTON THOMPSON. He already had the fast Western swing-tinged « Jelly Roll Blues » in 1949 on Freedom 5010, and later went as front vocalist for Johnny Lee Wills (« Oo Oooh Daddy » on RCA 5243). Here after train effects Thompson sings with urgency a fast song – already a small classic – « How Long » (Gold Star 1381) ; flipside « Hopeless Love » is a fine shuffler : fiddle is well to the fore. Thompson is backed by an otherwise unknown to me « Deacon (Rag Mop) Anderson » and his own Village Boys.
Hillbilly BILL HALEY used to adapt race songs to his Country repertoire. Here he goes strong with the Saddlemen on Holiday 105 (July 1951) with «Rocket « 88 » », which has been often cited as the first Rock’n’roll record by Ike Turner‘s band (The Delta Cats) fronted by JACKIE BRENSTON on Chess 1458.